On August 26, 2020, Justice Walter Timpone announced that he planned to retire early from the New Jersey Supreme Court if supreme court nominee Fabiana Pierre-Louis was confirmed by the Senate before September. On August 27, 2020, the New Jersey Senate voted 39-0 to approve Pierre-Louis.
Pierre-Louis is Governor Phil Murphy’s (D) first nominee to the supreme court. Because Justice Timpone will reach the age of 70 this year, he must retire due to a provision in the state’s constitution.
In the case of a vacancy on the court, the governor is tasked with selecting a nominee who is then confirmed by the Senate Judiciary Committee, followed by a confirmation by the entire Senate.
The state of New Jersey mandates partisan balance on the court. Justice Timpone was nominated as a Democrat, so Gov. Murphy had to nominate a Democrat to the court according to state law. Justice Timpone was appointed by Gov. Chris Christie (R).
Pierre-Louis is a first generation American and her parents are Haitian immigrants. Gov. Murphy stated, “I am honored to have put her name forward, and to see someone with a different set of life experiences and perspectives on our Supreme Court, a judicial body where New Jerseyans from all walks of life turn for justice.”
After Gov. Murphy announced her nomination, Pierre-Louis stated, “Many years ago, my parents came to the United States from Haiti with not much more than the clothes on their backs and the American dream in their hearts… I think they have achieved that dream beyond measure because my life is certainly not representative of the traditional trajectory of someone who would one day be nominated to the Supreme Court of New Jersey.”
Pierre-Louis was a prosecutor in the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of New Jersey. She was also a law clerk for state Supreme Court Justice John Wallace Jr.